Join the Leftypedia Discord server for information, discussion, and updates!


From Leftypedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Marxism–Leninism is a communist tendency developed by Joseph Stalin as a continuation of Leninist theory. Its creation came about during a period when competing factions within the Soviet leadership attempted to establish their legitimacy as Lenin's political successors following his death. Soviet leaders such as Leon Trotsky, Grigory Zinoviev, and Joseph Stalin wrote works developing the concept of a specifically Leninist ideology. Stalin coined the term to describe an ideology which considers Lenin's political thought to be a necessary development of Marxism, and made the term popular through his 1938 work The History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks).

It was the official ideology of the Soviet Union and other socialist states. After the success of the Russian revolution in 1917 and the establishment of the Soviet Union in 1922, many communist parties around the world began to adopt Marxism–Leninism as their political line, and Marxism–Leninism was the main theoretical framework which guided multiple proletarian revolutions across the globe during the 20th century. Marxism–Leninism continues to be followed by a large portion of the international workers' movement, and is upheld by many communist parties to this day.


Marxism–Leninism was founded on the ideological and political concepts established by Vladimir Lenin following the split with the Mensheviks and opportunists of the Second International up to the Russian revolution of 1917 and formation of the Soviet Union under the Bolsheviks in 1922. After the death of Lenin, leadership of the revolution was entrusted to Joseph Stalin, against the wishes of Trotsky, Zinoviev and others in the Soviet Union. The oppositionists in the Soviet Union would continue to resist the government headed by Stalin until the late 1930s.[1]

The construction of socialism in the USSR helped solidify many theories in the corpus of Marxist–Leninist theory, including socialism in one country and the intensification of class struggle under socialism.


Joseph Stalin's Foundations of Leninism was originally a series a lectures delivered in 1924. This text would begin the creation of a new official Marxism and establish an ideological line between Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin.

Democratic centralism

A Marxist–Leninist party is organized according to democratic centralism. This means that first the party democratically decides something, and then all members are required to follow that decision and not work against it. If members still disagree with the decision, they are expected to request to discuss the issue again, not to form a faction or another party.

Vanguard party

The vanguard party is a concept mostly attributed to Lenin, and synthesized from his different writings. It was effectively used by the Bolsheviks, themselves firstly a wing of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party, during and after the October Revolution. This is a communist party which is functioning as the leadership of a social class or class-based political movement, and implicitly at least, a revolutionary class or political movement. This is usually in specific reference to a proletarian revolutionary party, such as the Bolsheviks in revolutionary Russia and the early Soviet Union.

Intensification of class struggle under socialism

Lenin and Stalin developed the concept that even after the proletarian revolution, bourgeois and other reactionary elements in society will not only continue to resist the construction of socialism, but increase their militancy many times over, aggravating class struggle. This tendency may be observed with the kulaks during the early history of the Soviet Union, who after the New Economic Policy was being transcended, resisted the revolutionary government headed by Stalin with various forms of sabotage during collectivization.[2]

Socialist commodity production

Marxist–Leninist theory holds that the nature of commodity production is not strictly or ultimately a capitalist one, and that commodity production may still exist in the lower stage of socialism. In Economic Problems in the USSR, Stalin stated that commodity production still existed in the Soviet Union but was distinct from commodity production under capitalism insofar as the other fundamental features of capitalist relations which would influence it were abolished, and commodity production itself long predated the capitalist mode of production.[3]

Analysis of imperialism

Stalin maintained that Marxism–Leninism was the next stage in the development of Marxism, expanding theory for the era of imperialism and proletarian revolution.[4]


Marxism–Leninism was developed during a time when there was an atmosphere of revisionism in surrounding socialist movements such as the ones associated with the Second International. Early anti-revisionist works by Leninist authors included Marxism and Revisionism, Anarchism or Socialism?, and Left-wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder.[5] Later forms of anti-revisionism would emerge after the death of Stalin and rise of Nikita Khrushchev to power in the Soviet Union in the 1950s, spearheaded by Enver Hoxha and Mao Zedong during the Sino-Soviet and Soviet-Albanian splits respectively. Many modern anti-revisionists are Maoists, but the ones that still identify with Marxism–Leninism are often known as Hoxhaists or anti-revisionist Marxist–Leninists.

The national question

The distinct definition for a nationality was developed by Stalin. He defined a nationality as a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, psychological makeup, and culture. Marxism–Leninism also established the concept of national self-determination and liberation.[6]

Socialism in one country

Socialism in one country was codified by the Soviet government under Joseph Stalin, basing themselves heavily on the writings of Lenin. This theory holds the socialism is able to be built in a single country or limited expanse of countries even if they are underdeveloped economically. After constructing socialism, the revolutionary country would be able to contend with the imperialist and capitalist states and assist revolutionary movements abroad.[7]

This theory was in direct conflict with the views held by the Trotskyists and other early Soviet factions, who believed that socialism would only be able to develop and resist imperialism by rapidly expanding into other, particularly Western imperialist, countries.[7]

The lower and higher phases of communism

Unlike other Marxist tendencies such as left communism, Marxism–Leninism separates socialism into two distinct phases or stages of development. The first being the lower stage of socialism, which emerges immediately after the socialist revolution and still bears certain features of the capitalist mode of production, such as commodity production, albeit in a different form. The second stage being the higher stage of socialism, also known as communism. Communism represents the total negation of capitalism and bears none of its socioeconomic features.[3]

Other forms

Mao Zedong Thought

Mao Zedong Thought is the ideological formulation developed by Mao Zedong which he regarded as Marxism–Leninism adapted for the material conditions of China. It puts emphasis on the agrarian peasantry and has new theories which include New Democracy, the Cultural Revolution, and others. Mao Zedong Thought is distinct from Marxism–Leninism–Maoism, often shortened to Maoism, mostly in its belief that Mao's theories are able to be universally applied to the conditions of other countries.


Hoxhaism refers to the current of anti-revisionist Marxist–Leninist thought developed by Enver Hoxha in the late 1970s and 1980s. It is distinctly supportive of Stalin and his policies while rejecting Mao Zedong Thought and Maoism. Hoxhaists generally do not describe themselves as being a distinct current from Marxism–Leninism, but on the contrary, adherents of its true form.[8] Some Hoxhaists, like the members and supporters of the Greek Anasintaxi, describe themselves as "Stalinists" or "Marxist–Leninist–Stalinists."[9]

Ho Chi Minh Thought

Ho Chi Minh thought is a Marxist–Leninist ideology developed by Ho Chi Minh and the Communist Party of Vietnam. It views itself as Marxism–Leninism adapted for conditions of Vietnam and the Vietnamese revolution.


Marxist critics argue that Marxism–Leninism works from the assumption that the Soviet Union was a socialist society and use this as reference point to navigate both political theory and practice. The consequence of this being that Marxism–Leninism is reconciled with bourgeois concepts such as the nation-state and nationalism. The most common criticism of Marxism–Leninism from Trotskyists is that rather than seeking to spread the socialist revolution throughout the world through direct revolutionary action, hence pursuing "Proletarian Internationalism," Stalin instead only assisted existing socialist revolutions, believing that the Soviet Union was the only country in the world capable of achieving socialism due to the success of its own revolution, and actually enacted a foreign policy of "peaceful coexistence" with the Western capitalist powers. [citation needed] Stalin named this theory "socialism in one country".



Paul Mattick


  1. Joseph Stalin (1939). History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks). At the Marxists Internet Archive.
  2. Joseph Stalin (1929). The Right Deviation in the C.P.S.U.(B.), The Intensification of the Class Struggle. At the Marxists Internet Archive.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Joseph Stalin (1951). Economic Problems of the USSR — Commodity Production under Socialism. At the Marxists Internet Archive.
  4. Joseph Stalin (1924). Foundations of Leninism – Introduction

    "Leninism is Marxism of the era of imperialism and the proletarian revolution. To be more exact, Leninism is the theory and tactics of the proletarian revolution in general, the theory and tactics of the dictatorship of the proletariat in particular. Marx and Engels pursued their activities in the pre-revolutionary period (we have the proletarian revolution in mind), when developed imperialism did not yet exist, in the period of the proletarians’ preparation for revolution, in the period when the proletarian revolution was not yet an immediate practical inevitability. But Lenin, the disciple of Marx and Engels, pursued his activities in the period of developed imperialism, in the period of the unfolding proletarian revolution, when the proletarian revolution had already triumphed in one country, had smashed bourgeois democracy and had ushered in the era of proletarian democracy, the era of the Soviets."

    "That is why Leninism is the further development of Marxism."
  5. Vladimir Lenin (1908). Marxism and Revisionism. At the Marxists Internet Archive.
  6. Joseph Stalin (1913). Marxism and the National Question. At the Marxists Internet Archive.
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Socialism in One Country: What it really means" (25 May 2017) ML-Theory
  8. "Revolutionary Spirit: The Marxist-Leninist Guide to Leftist Factions". Revolutionary Spirit. 2010-02-27. Retrieved 2023-01-08.
  9. It is absolutely correct and acceptable to use the term “Stalinism” (October 14, 2007). Anasintaxi website.


The History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks) (1938)